An Hour That Healed My Soul: Uber Shabbat After Charlottesville

Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest and celebration, beginning every Friday at sunset and ending on Saturday evening after nightfall. Although it is celebrated every week, traditional Jewish liturgy endows Shabbat with a mystical quality — as a day set apart from the world that transforms the very soul of the celebrant. As a secular Jew, I had never had that soul-transforming experience until I led the Uber Companywide Shabbat on the Friday following the Charlottesville attacks.

Weeks before, Shalom (Uber’s internal Jewish community group — we call them Employee Resource Groups) had scheduled a “Companywide Shabbat Celebration.” The Shalom leadership intended it to be a light-hearted event, using the irresistible lure of Challah (and the vastly more resistable lure of Manischewitz) to share a little bit about Shabbat with our colleagues, and to let people know about Shalom’s activities.

As Shalom Co-Chair, it fell to me to host the event. I had prepared a slide deck — it’s not an Uber meeting without one — with a bit of background on Shalom and a Cliff’s Notes guide to Shabbat.

As I stood up to speak, however, I was overcome with emotion. My colleagues in the Philadelphia Uber office had gathered in our conference room, which now smelled of freshly baked Challah. Nine little boxes of smiling faces from across the country popped up on the large video conference screen.

Instead of sticking to my prepared remarks, I found myself saying the following:

The mission of the Shalom ERG is to create a community celebrating Jewish heritage, teachings and faith for Uber employees all over the world. We did not realize how urgent that mission would be when we wrote it.
After Charlottesville, creating and celebrating the communities that exist at Uber, and promoting understanding by sharing what makes each group unique is even more important. I am honored to be able to help lead it, and I want you to recognize that what you are doing — taking time out of your day to learn about Shabbat and celebrate with us — is important.

Somehow the Shalom Shabbat had turned from a corporate diversity event into an act of healing. In the face of the anti-semitism and bigotry we had witnessed just days before, more than sixty Jews and non-Jews alike had taken time out of their schedules to publicly participate in a Jewish event, and to learn about our culture and heritage. I felt a rush of joy that came from having my Jewish identity acknowledged and celebrated.

In that hour, I felt the magic of Shabbat, and I will never forget it.